With camp opening this week, we’re going to begin previewing the roster in segments. Today we’ll focus on the potential members of the opening day infield. The format is as follows:
Expected 2013 role
A brief breakdown of the player
Split 2012 between MLB and Triple-A.
Expected to compete for backup catcher job in 2013.
Returned from Durham in September with new stance, new swing, and new results. We will see if that translates into next season. Likely challenger to Jose Lobaton for backup catcher spot or de facto third catcher waiting for the call from Triple-A. -T.R.
Spent 2012 with Blue Jays.
Expected to be everyday shortstop in 2013.
Enigmatic, charismatic, and talented. Should solidify position of instability at shortstop. Plate discipline was an issue in 2012. Gap power with solid bat handling skills. Steady defender with strong arm, but will occasionally make head-scratching decisions on and off field. – T.R.
Spent most of 2012 in MLB. Brief stay in Triple-A was procedural.
Expected to return to reserve role; could start versus left-handed pitching.
Was handed keys to shortstop position, but failed to put it in drive. His biggest hit was to a locker in Durham where he landed during a roster space crunch. Has most upside of potential reserve infielders and is a good defender across the board. Will need to find lost power against lefties. – T.R.
Spent most of 2012 in Triple-A.
May be on someone else’s roster by opening day unless injury or other move.
Once a top prospect, and heir apparent at shortstop, found himself back in Durham for most of the season. Likely the best defensive shortstop in the organization, but has shown little at the plate in terms of results and process. Seemingly fell out of favor with decision makers as less talented players were put ahead on depth chart. Out of options and perhaps out of time with Tampa Bay. – Tommy Rancel
Split 2012 between the Dodgers and Red Sox
Expected to start most, if not every day at first base
Boasts impressive hand-eye coordination. Makes a lot of contact for a bigger guy and covers the plate well. Raw power is still there, he just doesn’t tap into it often. Line-drive hitter. Smooth fielder with a good arm. Has more mobility than the typical first baseman. – R.A.
Served as the club’s primary backup catcher
Expected to reprise that role
Switch-hitter who excelled versus lefties and struggled against righties. Doesn’t do many things poorly, but doesn’t do many things well, either. Offense was walked-based in 2012; potentially a bad thing since pitchers have no reason to avoid challenging him. Typically solid defensively, but threw out a poor amount of basestealers. Uninspiring choice to start every other day barring some improvements. – R.A.
Spent the season as Toronto’s second baseman
Should split the season between second base and left field
Johnson is a fair bet to lead the team in strikeouts, provided he gets the playing time. He swings and misses a lot—especially on soft stuff low—though solid power is the reward for the whiffs. Look for Johnson to have a platoon role on the team. – R.J. Anderson
Split time in 2012 between the active roster and the disabled list
Will return to familiar starting roles at third base and in the heart of the lineup.
A strained hamstring dominated the story of Longoria’s 2012. Underwent offseason surgery to clean up same hamstring, but expects a full recovery by spring training. Provides elite-level offense and defense. The team’s best overall player. The face of the franchise. You get the picture. – J.R.
Middle infielder/corner outfielder
Spent 2012 juggling three different defensive positions
Will get back to his two primary positions at second base and right field
Only current Ray to have ever played a regular season game as a Devil Ray. The acquisition of Yunel Escobar means Zobrist won’t have to reprise his 2012 late-season role as starting shortstop. Will start every day, but infield/outfield distribution will depend on roster decisions that may not come until late in spring training. Fortunately Zobrist knows waiting – his patience and good pop help draw loads of walks. – J.R.
When healthy in 2012, served as team’s primary designated hitter
Returns to DH role in 2013
Various injuries last year not only limited his playing time but also his effectiveness when he did play. Has a history of injury trouble, but a late 2012 resurgence provided a glimpse of what he might still be capable of when mostly healthy. Scott’s game is power, particularly against right-handed pitching. – J.R.
Acquired from Arizona in July 2012, primarily played second base
If still on the roster, expected to play mostly reserve role with some starts against left-handed starting pitchers
Right-handed batting and second baseman’s glove make him a bit of a roster doppelganger of Sean Rodriguez. Has a better offensive resume than Rodriguez, but has less upside and a higher price tag. Lost some walks last season, but typically has a disciplined approach at the plate with middling power. – Joel Kennedy-Ramos
Spent 2012 as primary catcher
Expected to resume same role in 2013
Joe Maddon attempts to delicately balance Molina’s excellent pitch-framing skills against a rather empty bat, but the options behind the big catcher are very limited. Fans may get frustrated at the lack of offensive production, but his glove is a difference-maker. – Jason Collette